Fryderyk Chopin is one of the most famous Varsovians. The composer spent half of his thirty-nine years in the capital city. It was here that the great genius the whole world would soon admire was discovered.
While Fryderyk was born in Żelazowa Wola, after a few short months the Chopins moved to Warsaw. Fryderyk learnt to play the piano in the capital city, and gave his first concert here at the tender age of eight. Warsaw was the first city to appreciate the young Fryderyk’s extraordinary talent. He performed in the salons of the Warsaw aristocracy, the city’s press wrote about him, and his teachers emphasised his outstanding musical talent.
Fryderyk could often by seen on Krakowskie Przedmieście or Miodowa streets – rushing to his English classes, to meet up with friends at one of his favourite cafes, or in search of novelties in the sheet music shop.
Walking the streets of Warsaw today, you can find many locations visited by the famous composer two hundred years ago.
Golden fields stretching out to the horizon, rolling green hills, and the waters of the Vistula meandering in between – no wonder Fryderyk fell in love with Mazovia. That love of his – for tradition, country, and folk culture – reverberates in many of his compositions.
From a very early age, he learned all about Warsaw and other nooks and crannies of Mazovia, before tapping the rich treasure trove of folk culture by the handful. Visits to his birthplace – the manor in Żelazowa Wola, carefree summer holidays in Sanniki, trips to Płock and Rościszewo, and above all contact with traditional Polish culture – were all an inspiration for the sensitive boy. In his letters to friends and family, Fryderyk frequently described local customs and talented musicians.
Mazovia still shows many traces of the prominent composer’s presence; yet medieval castle ruins, historical cities, and the colourful folklore Chopin treasured are far from the region’s only attractions. Extensive woodland complexes and natural reserves forming part of the Natura 2000 protected areas are the perfect setting for rest and recreation.
In all probability, Fryderyk Chopin did not expect that a monument to him would be erected in Warsaw – and become one of the capital’s most well-known symbols. The massive form by Wacław Szymanowski was designed to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birthday.
The monument was unveiled in 1926 in the Łazienki Royal Park.This palace and garden complex was developed in the 18th century as the summer residence of Stanisław August, the last king of Poland. The park was named after one of the first edifices erected within – a baroque bathing pavilion. The picturesque Baths Palace, or Palace on the Isle (Pałac Na Wyspie), its two bridges connecting it to the remaining part of the park, is a particularly noteworthy location.
For more than fifty years, Chopin concerts have been held at the foot of the monument. Eminent pianists perform every Sunday from mid-May until late September. These concerts are tremendously popular with tourists and residents of Warsaw alike.
A must-see not only for fans of music by the most well-known Polish composer. Today, the Ostrogski Palace houses the Fryderyk Chopin Museum, one of the most modern biographical museums in Europe.
The Pleyel grand piano the composer played for the last two years of his life is the most valuable item on display. Apart from the instrument, other personal belongings of the composer can be viewed and admired at the museum, letter and sheet music manuscripts included. The Fryderyk Chopin Museum has the largest collection of Chopin memorabilia in the world. Something is sure to catch your eye!
For years, homage has been paid to the memory of the great artist at the Ostrogski Palace. An institute named after Chopin has been in operation here since 1934; the palace also housed the Fryderyk Chopin Society in the years 1954-2005.
The Palace was built in the second half of the 17th century. Reconstructed a number of times, it was destroyed during World War Two. Its reconstruction was finalised in 1954.
If you are planning a visit to the Fryderyk Chopin Museum and Żelazowa Wola between June and September, the ChopinPass is your best bet. This is a package deal with prepaid entry fees for both venues, and tickets for direct transfer between the two locations. For more information see www.chopinpass.pl
In the early 19th century, the church was the largest Catholic place of worship in Warsaw. Since the Chopins were part of the local parish, many important moments in the family’s history tie in with the church. It was here that Fryderyk’s sisters, Izabella and Emilia, were baptised; here too the composer’s heart was interred.
The composer asked for his body to be returned to Poland upon his death. According to some sources, Chopin wished to be buried at the Powązki cemetery, today the resting place of his parents and friends as well as lovers and popularisers of his music. This was not possible for political reasons. The composer’s body was laid to rest in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. His family’s efforts made it possible for Fryderyk’s heart to be returned to Poland and embedded in one of the church pillars.
The baroque-style Holy Cross Church is one of the most beautiful historical monuments in Warsaw.
For one half of his life in Warsaw, this was where Chopin lived – at the Former Rectory annexed to the Kazimierzowski Palace. The composer’s family moved here in 1817 after the Warsaw Lyceum – where Fryderyk’s father worked as a French language teacher – changed location.
A commemorative plaque has been placed in front of the entrance to the palace annex. Another can be found on the first-floor level of the western wall, next to a bas relief depicting the composer.
Today, the building houses the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the Institute of Art History.
The Kazimierzowski Palace used to house the Warsaw Lyceum, where the young Chopin was one of the pupils. He began attending the school at the age of thirteen, having been immediately admitted to the fourth grade. He had previously been home-schooled.
The Kazimierzowski Palace was built in the first half of the 17th century as the summer residence of King Jan Kazimierz. For thirty years, it housed the renowned School of Chivalry (Szkoła Rycerska) founded by Stanisław August, the last king of Poland.
Today, the building is owned by the University of Warsaw.
Kazimierzowski Park, formerly known as “the Botanics” (Botanika), is located on an escarpment flanking the back walls of the Kazimierzowski Palace (Pałac Kazimierzowski).
When the Chopins were staying at the palace, “the Botanics” was used as a garden where Warsaw Lyceum students could grow plants and watch seedlings develop. The keys to the fenced-in area were kept by lyceum staff, including Nicolas Chopin, Fryderyk’s father, making it – thanks to which the garden became a place where the young composer could play.
Later, “the Botanics” were converted into a recreation park, with Fryderyk Chopin witnessing the development. He wrote that, as a result, carrots had been replaced with flower-beds. When Fryderyk was enrolled at the Lyceum, the Kazimierzowski Park was where he met up with friends, went for strolls, and read books on one of the benches.
The Czapski/Krasiński Palace was a yet another place where the Chopins lived. This new apartment rented in the palace’s left-wing annex offered an escape from the memories of a family tragedy: in 1827, Fryderyk’s youngest sister Emilka died at fourteen years of age.
This apartment afforded the composer comfortable working conditions: he was given his first private room. Numerous artists, scholars, and young colleagues came to visit. It was here that the Czapski / Krasiński Palace was the last place of residence for Fryderyk before his departure on November 2nd 1830. We are reminded of the fact by a plaque placed on the frontal façade of the building. The inscription reads, “Fryderyk Chopin lived and composed in this building before leaving Warsaw forever in 1830”.
Today, the palace houses the Academy of Fine Arts.
Thanks to the Chopin in Warsaw mobile application you can go back in time to the Chopins’ virtual drawing room.
The Sunday services mandatory for the young people of the Warsaw Lyceum were held at the Visitationist Church. It was here that Fryderyk played the organ on numerous occasions, and met Konstancja, his first love, who sang at mass. As often as not, Chopin’s accompaniment morphed into improvisation. The young composer frequently became lost in his own music, with the sexton asking him to stop playing. Thanks to the young Fryderyk, Sunday masses were an unforgettable experience – who wouldn’t want to attend?
The Visitationist Church (its full name is the Church of the Protection of Saint Joseph the Betrothed to the Immaculate Mary, Mother of God) was built in the 17th century for French nuns, with a number of modifications added in the 18th century. Having survived World War Two, the church still houses the majority of its original furnishings. Its façade, the style typical for the baroque period, and its boat-shaped pulpit remain the most interesting elements of the edifice.
As a young boy, Fryderyk lived with his family in the right wing of the Saxon Palace for a few years, probably on the second floor. The palace housed the Warsaw Lyceum at the time; the school employed Chopin’s father as a French language teacher, and offered him staff quarters. The Chopins ran a school for boys there – an establishment of excellent repute. From a very young age, Fryderyk listened to his father’s pupils and his sister Ludwika play the piano. He made his own first attempts.
The Chopins lived at the Saxon Palace until 1817. They left following the decision to move the Warsaw Lyceum to the Kazimierzowski Palace.
The Saxon Palace was a major attraction in pre-war Warsaw. Regrettably, it was completely destroyed during World War Two, the only remnants being parts of the colonnade. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed beneath the remaining columns. The entire palace can be viewed as a 3D model available in Augmented Reality. Use your tablet or smartphone to see what the Saxon Palace looked like in Chopin’s times!
The Saxon Garden is one of the few places on the map of Warsaw where you can forget that you are in the very heart of a dynamic European city. Walking the lanes, imagine young Fryderyk Chopin running around with his sister Ludwika two hundred years ago, playing and hiding from his mother’s watchful eye behind trees.
The family lived next to the park for a few years – it stands to reason that they would have probably spent all their free time there. Fryderyk may well have taken his first love Konstancja Gładkowska on romantic walks to this park.
Today, you can enjoy the unique atmosphere of the Saxon Garden, Poland’s oldest public garden. In the warm months, it is worth ending a daily walk at the park’s central point, Warsaw’s first city fountain. Note the sundial behind it. Unfortunately Chopin was not able to see these developments – they were added several years after his death.
The institution was formerly housed by a building located at the Zamkowy Square, between the royal Castle and the St. Anne’s Church. Nuns lived there for many years. Used as an armaments warehouse for a while, the building was then converted into the Warsaw Conservatory.
This venue was of special importance to Chopin: it was here that he studied and met Konstancja Gładkowska, his first great love. The girl took singing classes, Fryderyk accompanying her frequently.
Regrettably, the building can no longer be found on maps of Warsaw: it was pulled down in the 19th century. Today, the place offers a wonderful view of Warsaw’s Praga district.
What would Chopin’s last moments in Warsaw have been had he known that he would never walk the streets of the city again? This question will forever remain unanswered. What we do know is that his journey to Vienna began near the Wessel Palace, which housed a postal office dispatching mail coaches.
Fryderyk was bidden farewell by his friends and Professor Józef Elsner, who sang the Born in the Polish Land cantata, composed especially for the occasion. The Kurier Warszawski daily reported on the whole event.
Construction of the late-baroque Wessel Palace was completed in themid-18th century. Destroyed during the 1944 Warsaw Rising, the palace was reconstructed after the war.
Today it houses the Appellate Prosecutor’s offices.
When the very young Fryderyk gave a performance at the Res Sacra Miser building, the audience sensed that they were witnessing true genius. Chopin was only thirteen when he played at a concert held at the home of the Warsaw Charitable Society. One of the newspapers reported that: “after the sixth musical evening, we will in all probability cease envying Vienna their Liszt; our capital has an equally talented musician – if not a better one.”
Res Sacra Miser has a long and colourful history. It housed the first Warsaw mint, a majestic and splendid palace, as well as a nunnery and church.
In Fryderyk’s times, the buildings were reconstructed and presented to the Warsaw Charitable Society – this was when the Latin inscription Res Sacra Miser meaning poverty is sacred was placed upon the façade.
How astonished the audience gathered at the Radziwiłł Palace must have been on February 24th 1818 when an eight-year-old boy debuted with a marvellous piano concert. It was the young Fryderyk Chopin whose performance was so enthusiastically received, and piqued the interest of the Warsaw press. Fryderyk was invited back for further performances.
The Radziwiłł Palace was built in the 17th century. It is now the main residence of the President of the Republic of Poland – hence its current name. As in Chopin’s times, four stone lions guard the entrance to the courtyard. In 1965, a monument to Duke Józef Poniatowski was erected in front of the building.
Chopin’s younger sister Izabella once lived in part of the palace. Her apartment was also a shelter for items owned by her famous brother. All these objects survived until a certain dramatic development of 1863 – a failed attack on the life of the tsar’s governor, General Fyodor Berg, from the windows of the Zamoyski Palace. Berg was ruling Warsaw on the order of the Russian tsar.
In revenge for the attempted assassination, the tsar’s soldiers evicted all palace tenants, their apartments destroyed and plundered. Russian troops smashed and burned Fryderyk Chopin’s grand piano as well as other treasured family belongings.
The event inspired one of Poland’s most famous poets, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, to write his poem “Chopin’s Grand Piano”.
Today, the Zamoyski Palace houses teaching facilities of the University of Warsaw.
What do the Evangelical Augsburg Church of the Holy Trinity, Tsar Alexander I and a diamond ring have in common? Fryderyk Chopin! In May 1825, the composer played a new keyboard instrument, the eolimelodikon, which emulated sounds of other instruments – for the Muscovite ruler at this very church. He was presented with a diamond ring as a token of gratitude, which proves that the teenaged Chopin’s performance must have made a huge impression. The church also had a parish choir that Fryderyk was part of.
The Church of the Holy Trinity was famous for its excellent acoustics, the beautiful music played during services, and special concerts with eminent artists performing, including Stanisław Moniuszko and Camille Saint-Saëns.
This classicist church was the tallest building in 18th-century Warsaw, making it a perfect observation tower. It was almost completely destroyed during the Warsaw Rising. After the war it was reconstructed to its original architectural design. Fortunately, the church lost none of its magnificent acoustics, and continues to be used as a concert venue to this day.
Angelica Catalani. While today the name might not ring many bells, in Chopin’s times it sparked great emotion. The great singer gave concerts throughout Europe. When in Warsaw, she gave four performances at the Jabłonowski Palace, then the City Hall.
The “Siren of Europe” heard the ten-year-old Fryderyk play at a meeting at Messrs. Wolicki. Enraptured by the boy’s talent, she presented him with a gold pocket watch bearing the inscription: “January 3rd 1820 – to the ten-year-old Fryderyk.”
The Jabłonowski Palace was built by two royal architects, Jakub Fontana and Dominik Merlini. It is a magnificent example of the Polish architecture of the early Enlightenment period.
Krasiński Square (former National Theatre location)
To perform on the National Theatre stage is a challenge and honour for any artist. Fryderyk Chopin gave his first performance there on March 17th 1830. The Kurier Warszawski daily described Fryderyk as “the first of all Virtuosi”.
Chopin was also a regular National Theatre guest in the audience, enjoying concerts by numerous Polish and foreign artists. He played his final farewell concert at the National Theatre on October 30th 1830.
King Stanisław August was the mastermind behind creating this most eminent of all Polish theatres, and Bonaventura Solari was its architectural designer. The first performance at the National Theatre was staged in 1779.
In Chopin’s times, aristocratic salons where artistic life flourished served as the clubs and cafes of later years. The Blue Palace owned by the Zamoyski family housed the most eminent salon of them all, visited by all the best-known representatives of artistic and political circles. Chopin gave many performances there.
The Blue Palace was built in the 17th century. It was named after the colour of its roofing. In Chopin’s times, many eminent intellectuals stayed at the palace, which was why it was also referred to as “the Polish Athens”.
The Belvedere was Grand Duke Constantine’s residence, and another venue where Fryderyk Chopin’s piano playing was much admired. As a teenager, the musician was invited there regularly to entertain the Duke and Duchess. Fryderyk dedicated a military march to the Duke, so well-liked that it was later played at military parades.
The young Fryderyk must have been greatly impressed by his visits to the Belvedere. The palace staff were all cherry-picked servants and valets; some were of tremendous height, others were midgets. The Belvedere grounds were cared for by petty criminals. The sight must have been moving, as they performed their duties in shackles.
Belvedere is a small palace with an imposing view, hence the name: the Italian phrase bel vedere means “a beautiful view”. Marshal Józef Piłsudski resided at the palace in the years 1926-1935. Today, the Belvedere is owned by the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. It is here that the head of state receives guests, and that important conferences and debates are held.
Two exhibitions are available for viewing at the Belvedere: “Marshal Józef Piłsudski” and “The Office of the War Order of Virtuti Military .”
The charming manor in Żelazowa Wola is perfect for a day trip. The picturesque route from Warsaw takes tourists across the Kampinos National Park and its buffer zone, all part of a Natura 2000 protected area.
Chopin was born in this small town in 1810. His family moved to Warsaw a few months later, travelling to the countryside only for summer holidays, Christmas or Easter. During summertime visits, the grand piano was brought out into the garden, Fryderyk giving concerts in the shade of firs and lindens.
Today Żelazowa Wola is a venue for Chopin music concerts and for “Musical Presentations” (“Prezentacje Muzyczne”) by talented young piano players, with audiences including Polish and international tourists. The story of the Chopin family and their relations with the Skarbek family – estate owners – is on display. Details of the history of the local Fryderyk Chopin museum can be viewed as well.
If you are planning a visit to Żelazowa Wola and the Fryderyk Chopin Museum between June and September, the ChopinPass is your best bet. This is a package deal with prepaid entry fees for both venues, and tickets for direct transfer between the two locations. For more information see www.chopinpass.pl
St Rocco’s and St John the Baptist’s Church in Brochów
The parish church in Brochów is of great importance to the Chopins’ family history. Fryderyk’s parents – Nicolas Chopin and Tekla Justyna née Krzyżanowska – were married there, as was the composer’s eldest sister Ludwika. Fryderyk himself was baptised also there on April 23rd 1810.
The Brochów church is one of the most valuable ecclesiastical and defence buildings from the renaissance period. Surrounded by a wall with bastions in each corner, the edifice is located on the banks of the River Bzura, its picturesque form reflected in its waters. This is definitely a perfect setting for snapshots.
It is worth going to see Brochów while in Żelazowa Wola – the two locations are a mere 11 km apart.